Idaho boy recovering from rare case of plague

A case of the plague has emerged in Idaho — here's why the disturbing disease continues to re-appear

Idaho boy recovering from rare case of plague

An Elmore County child is the first with a confirmed human case of plague in the state since 1992.

The child is from Elmore County, near Boise.

The child, who has not been identified, is now home after a course of antibiotics in a local hospital, Christine Myron, spokesperson for the Central District Health Department, said on Wednesday.

That said, researchers past year found traces of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium which causes the plague, among squirrels in Elmore County.

A child in Elmore County, Idaho, is recovering after getting infected from plague, CBS affiliate KBOI reports. Person-to-person transmission is extremely rare, and wasn't a factor in this case, officials said.

Plague activity can increase in the spring and summer months when rodents are more active.

Plague is a bacterial disease found in rodents that is transmitted through the bites of infected fleas and can cause serious illness to people and pets if not treated quickly, according to the news release. In recent decades, an average of seven human plague cases have been reported each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

"People can decrease their risk by treating their pets for fleas and avoiding contact with wildlife", CDHD epidemiologist Sarah Correll said in a statement. This strain of bacteria still occurs naturally in some rodent populations, spread by fleas in rats and squirrels, but is exceedingly rare in humans.

Plague is a bigger problem in places that have a harder time shutting down outbreaks due to a lack of infrastructure, humanitarian crises, or ongoing conflicts, according to the World Health Organization. The symptoms include fever, chills, weakness, and headache, followed by very painful and swollen lymph nodes, referred to as "buboes".

Between 1346 and 1353, the plague, also called the Black Death, killed between 75 and 200 million people in European countries.

One of the more significant plague reservoirs is the western United States, which is why many parks in this region post signs warning visitors to keep their distance from wild rodents and to wear protective clothing and/or insect repellent.

Clean up areas near your home where rodents can live, such as woodpiles and lots with tall grasses and weeds. It can also be contracted by handling an animal infected with plague.

Talk to your veterinarian about flea control for your pets before venturing out to ground squirrel areas, and follow the directions on the label.

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